Proof that the LVRPA have long planned to sell off land to fund the new ice rink

We suspected the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA) was lying when Shaun Dawson, the Chief Executive, and Paul Osborne, the Chairman, told us, on 19 January 2017, that there has been no decision to sell of the land around the Waterworks Centre for development to fund the building of the ice centre. Now we have the proof. They have been discussing it for over a year…

We have obtained the correspondence between Waltham Forest Council and the LVRPA regarding the Council’s Lea Valley East Side Vision via a Freedom of Information Act request.

References to the salient points are set out below.

File Page Date Comment
1-10 4 26/1/16 First mention of “enabling development”
1-10 24 20/4/16 First mention of Academy Trust on the Thames Water site
11-20 7 15/5/16 First mention of moving the rangers out of the Waterworks Centre
11-20 10, 12 24/6/16 First mention of “enabling development” at the Waterworks Centre
11-20 18 27/6/16 “The cap ex for the new twin pad will rely on the release of value from the existing WaterWorks Centre facility; this could be for an hotel/residential and maybe industrial. Our preference is for the most lucrative.”
21-30 28 8/11/16 Mention of the car wash
21-30 49 11/11/16 “Three aspects of the masterplan which are all highly sensitive and will attract a hostile response from some quarters: …”
21-30 58 14/11/16 “Ranger base to relocate to Connaught Close”
21-30 64 24/11/16 Invitation to breakfast at Borough Market
31.1-31.2 1 20/12/16 Our petition
31.3-33 36-37 15/12/16 Mention of some sort of development at the Riding Centre (canopies similar to those at the car wash?) that are recognized to be “inappropriate”. All developments referred to as inappropriate for MoL by Council.
31.3-33 42 22/12/16 Our petition
34-40 2 9/1/17 Our petition and mention, by the Council, of scaling back the development at the WaterWorks so it doesn’t include the golf course.
34-40 17 11/1/17 Mention of developments on the Thames Water site
34-40 37-40 12/1/17 Briefing note to Coghill
41-43 9 17/1/17 Our petition

The documents are available from our website: http://www.saveleamarshes.org.uk/

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Goodbye T46

t46-ripOn Hackney Marsh the poplars stand forlorn –

The dingy old pavilion built of bricks

Dilapidated – pot-holed carpark.  Mourn

With us!  They’ve come to fell T Forty-six,

A blameless poplar standing in the way

Of progress, victim of the shady tricks

Of those who seek to justify their pay

By filling up the open space with cars

And noise and fumes, converting green to grey.

The trees, the birds, these spaces all are ours!

We want to keep them green and free for all,

And not enclosed by roads and gates with bars.

The few remaining poplars still stand tall,

Confined behind the new pavilion’s wall.

Click here to Reply, Reply to all, or Forward
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Waltham Forest Council Refuse To Debate Waterworks Development

Council refuse to debate issues raised by Leyton Marshes petition in Full Council Meeting
If a petition reaches 4000 signatures Waltham Forest Council say they will debate it in Full Council. Yet, Abigail Woodman, the person who organised the petition against the Council’s plan to rezone part of Leyton Marshes for development, received the attached letter a few days ago saying that a petition will only be debated if all 4000 signatories live, work or study in Waltham Forest. Abigail’s response is also attached, and we echo her call for the issue – which affects people beyond the boundary of the borough of Waltham Forest – to be given the attention it deserves through debate at Full Council.
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LVRPA Officially Respond to ‘Eastside Vision’: Conceding Little Ground on Waterworks Plans

img_2466-jpg_lo-resThe day after we handed in our large petition to Waltham Forest Council, we received a copy of the official letter that has been written by Shaun Dawson, Chief Executive of the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, to the council regarding the plans for the Waterworks, Leyton Marsh and the Thames Water Depot.

We were expecting much of what was is contained therein – mostly Newspeak guff about improvements, regeneration and access whilst they plan to sell off marshland, an existing community asset and de-register MOL:

lvrpa-response-to-vision-consultation

However, there is also a very telling backtrack on the plans to develop the Waterworks site, it is stated that the Authority “intends when more detailed work is carried out to restrict the actual land used for residential development to the current ‘built footprint’ of the building and surrounding car park area. We will retain the rest of the site as public open space.”

So what does this mean?

Although this new position demonstrates the effective pressure exerted on the Authority from the community to protect the marshes, this alteration does next to nothing to address the issues raised by the proposed development of Leyton Marshes.

Our Metropolitan Open Land can only be protected by opposing any sale or development of it for housing. What we have seen in the myriad of developments in the Lower Lee Valley is the piecemeal erosion of open space and the gradual privatisation of public land. In each case, the argument is made that the particular development is justified and only constitutes a temporary exclusion of the public or comprises of a small area. However, the cumulative effect of each development is not only the net loss of public land but the weakening of protections that are meant to protect all our most valued green spaces, keeping them open for all.

It is acknowledged that the new Ice Centre will go ahead if an ‘exception’ is made to the current protections for the land. We were informed that the basketball training facility erected on Leyton Marsh was justified by the ‘exceptional circumstance’ of the Olympic Games. There is no such exceptional circumstance here, just the desire to create a leisure facility, which could be constructed elsewhere without necessitating loss of public space.

The current position of the Authority will not do anything to protect the fragile Waterworks Nature Reserve, created in part to mitigate the effects of the conversion of the adjacent site into the Thames Water Depot, now also marked for further development. Nature reserves cannot exist as islands of nature, akin to zoos, surrounded by human habitation polluted by noise and light. Development works and housing on the footprint of the Waterworks Centre and car park, even if limited to just that area, will have a degrading effect on the nature reserve. The location of the centre where it is did support education and enjoyment of nature, until it was neglected by the Authority. This large facility will be lost to beneficial public uses forever.

screenshot_2017-02-02-11-32-13Much of the car park area remains green and supports trees and wildlife, this will also be lost. As can be seen from the image, the majority of the land in front of the Visitor Centre is green space, not car park! Very little of the area is actually hard surfacing; the access road, the semicircle in front of the building, and the parking areas themselves on the east side cover no more than 16% of the area under consideration for development. The whole western side next to the flood relief channel is completely green and is more than one third of the area.

The following table, measured in hundreds of square metres, demonstrates the composition of the site:

Waterworks Centre and carpark South of Waterworks Centre
Tarmac       52       0
Buildings        9      0
Grass      117    207
Total      178    207

So as can be seen from the table, the Waterworks site which presently contains a marginal ‘built footprint’. Eighty four percent of Waterworks is green space. Whether or not this development area is reduced, the public did not want partial building on the Waterworks but complete protection for land valued very highly. The signatures of 4800 people on our petition attests to this.

You can still sign the petition here

And do share this video of Abigail Woodman, creator of the petition, being interviewed on London Live. There is no evidence the flats being proposed will be affordable, let alone ‘solve’ the housing crisis especially as the Auhtority explicitly intend to sell the area to create maximum revenue to finance the new ice centre:  http://www.londonlive.co.uk/news/2017-02-03/are-open-spaces-more-important-than-dealing-with-the-housing-crisis

The campaign continues!

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A ‘Consensus’ Without a Vote: How the LVRPA Waved Through Selling Off Waterworks

Around 15 objectors attended the special meeting of the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority to consider Waltham Forest’s Eastside Vision document which included the proposal to build housing on the Waterworks site at Leyton Marsh. The LVRPA had deliberately moved the meeting from Waltham Forest to its headquarters at Myddleton House on the outskirts of London to make it hard for objectors to attend. It had been claimed Myddleton House was more convenient for Board members, however, about ten of the members failed to turn up. A disgraceful attempt to limit public participation.
Four objectors and one former member of the Authority spoke urging the Board members to oppose the Vision document where it related to the Waterworks site, highlighting the Metropolitan Open Land status of the site and the purpose in establishing the Authority to protect open space from development, warning members against setting a precedent for future misuse of MOL, pointing out the incompatibility of building housing next to the Essex Filter Beds Nature Reserve. They referred to the LVRPA’s own statements about the vital importance of the Lea Valley as a Green Lung, especially with modern day air pollution, and how when it was proposed to build Essex Wharf on the edge of the Park the LVRPA had opposed the development with the statement ‘Residential development does not fit within the remit of the Park.’ Yet in this case not only was the LVRPA not opposing development it was actually proposing it within the Park itself. No mention of this land sale had been made when the initial consultation about the future of the Ice Centre was carried out, even though it has since turned out that the sale of this land will contribute to the construction of a new Ice Centre.
Not one Board member asked a question of the objecting speakers. It was plain they had no arguments to counter the obvious strength of the opposition. All the points raised were ignored. The attitude of the Board could be summed up in the statement of one member that he was a pragmatist and did not think things could just stay as they were for ever. One member, Denise Jones from Tower Hamlets, did express astonishment at the idea of building on MOL. However, she still concurred with a supposed compromise proposed by Hackney Councillor Chris Kennedy that house building be limited to the footprint of the car park and cafe. This was presented as meeting objectors’ concerns, which it completely failed to do and was not a proposal endorsed by the objectors. Ms Jones also came up with a proposal to limit the height of any housing to be built on the site. This met with little support. Plainly this further limitation could make any proposed development unviable. Mr Kennedy showed no interest in it. To demonstrate how completely out of touch members were one even asserted that air pollution was getting better!
The Vision put forward by Waltham Forest of building housing at the Waterworks site ties in with the LVRPA’s decision to allow the sale of land. In turn, the sale of land for housing at the Waterworks is intimately linked with the Authority’s plans to build a new Ice Centre at its present site on Lea Bridge Road. Illustrating the confused thinking on the Board, one member suggested these two projects, the Ice Centre and the sale of land for housing, should be treated as being entirely separate! If this was to be done then there would absolutely no rationale behind the sale. In fact, not all the members were convinced of the need for an Ice Centre. Bizarrely, another member who expressed this point of view still made no objections to the idea of selling the land.
Stephen Wilkinson, the LVRPA’s head of planning, when invited to speak, said nothing of any consequence simply rambling through a feeble attempt at putting the plans ‘in context’, although he did insist, incorrectly, that it had always been a part of the LVRPA’s remit to support major venues, like the Ice Centre. He made no attempt to counter any of the points presented by objectors. One of the objectors had referred to counsel’s opinion that the LVRPA claimed it had received. He considered the LVRPA had gained little support from this opinion. Mr Wilkinson failed to provide any concrete statements from the advice to counter the objector’s comments. He avoided any discussion of the legal status of the land and the difficulties the LVRPA and Waltham Forest would have in altering this status.
He then handed over to a representative from Waltham Forest’s planning department to explain the ‘Vision’. The officer from Waltham Forest had little to add apart from the usual bullish discussion about the housing needs of the Borough and its desire to attract investment. Much of her presentation concerned Waltham Forest’s desire to create an attractive ‘Gateway’ to the Borough. Of course, the present green spaces at Leyton Marsh along with the facilities at the Waterworks provide exactly this kind of gateway and were specifically designed to achieve that purpose.
Essentially this vote is just another step along the road that the LVRPA has decided on. As Gerry Lyons pointed out, it was the LVRPA which had approached Waltham Forest with its proposal for building housing at the Waterworks. Disingenuously the Waltham Forest officer maintained the Vision is not a planning document. Strictly speaking this is so, however, it is plain the whole point of the exercise was for the two Authorities to co-ordinate their plans for the area.
Predictably the LVRPA Board went ahead and endorsed the ‘Vision’, including its proposal for housing at the Waterworks. It tried to make out that this did not imply approval at this stage, although in reality those in charge are determined to push ahead with this proposal. However, it was well worth making a show at the meeting. The presence of so many objectors was plainly a shock to the members of the Board. They know they will fact determined opposition. Unacceptable as Mr Kennedy’s suggestion was it shows that at least some of the Board are aware of the difficulties they face with public opposition. The Council will have to consult on its new Area Plan and get the agreement of the Mayor of London that it is compatible with the London Plan. Then it will have to be submitted to the Secretary of State who, in light of the public opposition, will probably have to send it to a public inquiry. Faced with public hostility and multiple objections and finding the site available for development restricted in size and height may convince Waltham Forest that it is on a hiding to nothing. Leyton Marsh has been the site of many famous and successful battles by local people to protect their open space. This will be another one.
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Update on Decisions by LVRPA re Waterworks

dsc00444The Land and Property Strategy that over two hundred people had asked the Authority Members to oppose passed today, without a vote being taken on the issue, as the Chair argued none was required. Save Lea Marshes spoke powerfully against the Strategy, arguing against the leasing or selling of land to finance leisure facilities, however the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority argued that the Strategy was merely a general ‘approach’ and any details would be decided later.

Before the meeting, Hackney residents who had written to Cll Chris Kennedy, the Hackney representative on the LVRPA, received an email detailing his views on the matter. He supports the new twin-pad ice centre on the site of the existing facility at Leyton Marsh and believes “the Authority should raise some of the money by development at the Waterworks, but only on the footprint of the current visitor centre and the car park to the north. ”

As the Waterworks Centre and car park were built with the explicit justification that they would facilitate access and enjoyment of the Waterworks Nature Reserve, the fact that this area is no longer open space should not be used as an excuse to develop it for commercial ventures. There should be no re-designation of Metropolitan Open Land under the stewardship of the LVRPA.

However, this battle to retain the Waterworks, part of Leyton Marshes, as MOL is far from over. The next crucial event takes place on Thursday 26th January. Next Thursday LVRPA members will meet to make a ‘formal’ response to the Council’s Eastside Vision document, which includes the plan to convert the northern area of the former golf course, the Waterworks centre and car park adjacent to the nature reserve into private housing.

This meeting was due to take place at Walthamstow Town Hall, in the local vicinity, however the Authority have changed the location of the meeting so it will now take place at Myddelton House, in Enfield!

We need as many people to attend this crucial meeting to demonstrate the depth of feeling about the issue. We understand that many people will be working but if you are available, please do make the journey to Myddelton House for the 2pm Authority Meeting.

There will be a SOCIAL BIKE RIDE to the meeting venue. Setting off from Walthamstow Library at 12.30pm. Pace will be gentle – all welcome!

The documents that will be discussed at the meeting are here: http://www.leevalleypark.org.uk/en/content/cms/corporate/about-us/meeting-documents/authority-meetings/

We will have further details soon – please contact us at: leamarshes@gmail.com with any queries.

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Lee Valley Park Plan to ‘Dispose of’ Waterworks To Fund New Ice Centre!

Up until today we thought the plans to rezone part of Leyton marshes for housing came from Waltham Forest Council, and were hoping that the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA) – the organisation that owns the land on our behalf – would object to them. However, a document – lea-valley-eastside-summary-and-position-11-jan-2017-3 – we have seen today shows that the LVRPA have long been in league with the Council.

dsc00444

The LVRPA wants to ‘dispose’ of the 5 acres of land around The Waterworks Centre to fund the building of a new ice centre across the road, on what is also Metropolitan Open Land. We believe it is wrong for an organisation set up specifically to protect open, green spaces to act as a property developer and ‘dispose’ of land we care deeply about. The Members of the LVRPA are meeting to consider this proposal on 19th January. Therefore we’re asking you to email all the Members of the LVRPA before the meeting on 19thJanuary to object.

If you’re short of time, there is a pro forma email you can send below.

Let’s flood the inboxes of Authority Members and show them how strongly we feel about this!

To: paul.osborn@harrow.gov.uk; derrick.ashley@hertfordshire.gov.uk; david.andrews@hertfordshire.gov.uk; kathy.bee@croydon.gov.uk; john.bevan@haringey.gov.uk; Stephen.Carr@bromley.gov.uk; malcolm.cowan@hertfordshire.gov.uk; gwyneth.deakins@redbridge.gov.uk; cllr.christine.hamilton@enfield.gov.uk; linda.haysey@eastherts.gov.uk; cllr.r.houston@barnet.gov.uk; heather.johnson@camden.gov.uk; Cllr.Denise.Jones@towerhamlets.gov.uk; christopher.kennedy@hackney.gov.uk; cllr.john.knapman@essex.gov.uk; cllr.gerry.lyons@walthamforest.gov.uk; graham.mcandrew@eastherts.gov.uk; smcdermott@wandsworth.gov.uk; cllr.valerie.metcalfe@essex.gov.uk; salim70@hotmail.co.uk; marysartin@yahoo.com; alan.searing@hertfordshire.gov.uk; cllr_alan.smith@lewisham.gov.uk; sydstavrou@hotmail.co.uk; cllr.simon.walsh@essex.gov.uk; lyn.white@ntlworld.com
Cc: sdawson@leevalleypark.org.uk; leamarshes@gmail.com
Subject: Please reject the Land and Property Strategy on 19 January

Dear Authority Members

I am writing to ask you to reject the Land and Property Strategy that will be presented to you on 19 January.

Over 3000 people have already signed a petition (https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-council-s-plan-to-build-on-leyton-marshes) calling on the London Borough of Waltham Forest to scrap its plans to rezone a large swathe of green open space around The WaterWorks Centre – part of Leyton marshes – for housing, and I am asking you to play your part in ensuring our green open spaces are protected. This land is Metropolitan Open Land, which means it should be protected from all inappropriate development, just like Green Belt land. Housing is not, and never will be, appropriate for Metropolitan Open Land.

The founding rationale of the Lee Valley Regional Park was to protect the Park as a green lung for London, and all Authority Members have a duty to uphold this. At no point during the consultations about a new ice rink was anyone told that it would be funded by selling off land presently held for recreational use. To do so would subvert the clear intention of the Act of Parliament with which the Park was founded.

Under the Lee Valley Regional Park Act, the Park Authority was given financial independence by virtue of the power to draw a precept from the GLC (now London boroughs) and Essex and Hertforshire, the power to borrow and the power to make charges. In addition, it can receive contributions to its capital facilities from third party bodies. Up until now, the Park Authority has lived within its means, limiting its plans to what it can afford from the resources available to it. To depart from this funding model, by selling off recreational land for development, goes against the principles upon which the Park was established. If the Park Authority concludes that it cannot afford to build a new ice centre without resorting to selling off recreational land for development, then a new ice centre is currently beyond the Park Authority’s means.

Furthermore, it is disingenuous to argue that the fact that The Waterworks Centre is underused is justification enough for closing it. It is underused only because those managing it have let it steadily run into the ground over the last few years, and have resisted all suggestions from local people about how it can be made a vibrant community hub.

Please protect the future of the Lee Valley Regional Park, and reject the Land and Property Strategy that will be presented to you on 19 January.

With best wishes

 

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